I am a mom of two two-year-olds. They are cute, aren't they? I love them dearly, but must say I was utterly underprepared for what being a toddler mom actually entailed.
I once (laughably) entered college as a nursing major, knowing well that I could not in any way handle bodily fluids. Well, I feel like that aversion has passed due to constant exposure. I once scrunched my nose and avoided eye contact with those talking about body parts or the symptoms of disgusting sicknesses, and now I can hold conversations for hours about these things. I once was really bothered by the noise my husband made when he drummed on the steering wheel in the car, and now I can tune out the screaming in the backseat for hours at a time. I also once thought I knew what unconditional love looked like, but now I know first-hand the feeling of your heart walking around outside your body. And it's weird. And it's sweet. And it's heart-wrenching. And it's requiring a whole new level of trust in the Lord day-by-day.
So without further ado, here are 10 things I've learned as a parent of toddlers:
- It's never harder to get back in your car than when your kid is screaming, "Mommmmmyyyyy!" and crying when you drop them off at daycare. It also doesn't get easier if this happens more than once. Still feels like something deep within your soul is ripping every time.
- Celebrating the absolutely normal functions of the human body like pooping and sleeping become common place. You pooped in the potty at school? I will march down the street in a parade with all manner of embarrassment to let you know I'd like you to keep doing that. I'd like someone to cheer for me next time I take a longer than normal nap, or a nap at all.
- My ability to RSVP to the 22948520 birthday party invitations we get from the kids' classes at school would basically get me fired a week or two in if it was a job.
- Explaining big concepts in little people words seemed to be super easy before I had little people asking big questions that almost always end in, "Why?"
- Brushing your child's teeth will transform you into a re-run of Steve Erwin wrestling the biggest alligator in the wetlands, where that alligator feels very comfortable and Steve feels out of his element. The strength a toddler can muster when they don't want you to pry open their mouths is unbelievably impressive.
- My ability to change the subject when my kids are crying about something else is really improving. "Oh, you can't find your Paw Patrol toy? Do you remember how much you love this commercial that is unconventionally slow while a show you barely care about is coming on? No? How about this Minnie Mouse? Let's read If You Give A Mouse a Cookie for the 19th time today! I really really really want to!"
- I will willingly catch vomit in my hands if it means I won't have to change the sheets...again.
- Toddlers are sponges. That sarcastic remark said under your breath? Repeated to their Sunday school teachers. That joke you didn't think they heard? Told to every teacher at school. You made them wear pants today? Well, get ready to have a major smear campaign run against you throughout the day at the hands of a tiny dictator. On the other hand, this means they can also soak up things you never thought they could. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man? Of course He is, mom. Goliath was 9 feet 9 inches tall? Filed into the permanent file in the brain. It seems they can understand big concepts about God and His work in the world better than I can sometimes.
- No feeling of entrapment has ever been so strong as when a toddler falls asleep on your arm. Hope you weren't planning to do anything. Moving will certainly wake them, and being trapped for all of nap time is by far a less painful reality... except when your arm falls asleep. Would just cutting it off be too extreme?
- Toddlers have been the best reminder that my life is not about me. You can only slip into that thinking for a few minutes before a shrill request shocks you out of it. My days are filled with Paw Patrol and Minnie Mouse, swinging and little plastic lawn mowers that blow bubbles as you push. Our lives are but a vapor, and it's what we do with that vapor that determines if it actually lasts past ourselves or not. My toddlers are my legacy, my ministry, my resumé that is of any worth. Not that my life revolves around kids, because that is not healthy either, but that more than ever, I think of myself less. I think of serving more (mostly out of a tiny voice begging for the 7th snack of the day).
And because they remind me of the need to serve, I'm far more likely to give of myself to others because a pattern of giving is being established, and I pray that they will see that and one day they'll have toddlers of their own. Although that seems to be so far from now, and I have a lot of "raising" to do before these little toddlers can be capable and thoughtful adults, it's coming, and parenting with the end in mind and with the gospel on my lips has shown that it is the way that leads to life over and over again.
Toddlers are crazy. Our oldest recently threw down in Chik-fil-a because he didn't want to go home (an understandable desire). As he ran barefoot around the store and behind the cash register, flailing while everyone watched, I literally said to a group of college students who were wide-eyed and couldn't NOT watch the train wreck happening, "YOUR TIME WILL COME," as I wrangled the child under my arm like a surf board and sprinted to the car.
They also are the ones who say, "Mommy, you are so pretty. You don't need makeup." without prompting. They are the ones who sing "Jesus Loves Me" when they don't want to go to sleep or when they are sad or when they don't get what they want (basically, it's my youngest's coping mechanism for all things). They are the ones who have a meltdown, and then hug you, say they are sorry, and go on with life almost immediately.
Toddlers are the biggest challenge and the biggest blessing I've ever received, and if you have toddlers I bet you'd agree.